Category: Communication

As we are all aware, communication is a big part of our daily life. Whether it be in the workplace, at home, or socially, effective communication is an essential skill for everyone. Communication does not ‘just happen’, for effective communication to occur in a team there has to be an effective communication strategy in place. Communication does not begin with talking and convincing, but with hearing and understanding. It is also important for your team to understand that when it comes to communication it is essential to understand that people respond to the world as they see it.

Communication Skills for Building Teams

Communication Skills for Building Teams

Strong communication skills are essential for assertive interaction with others in a team. Humans are social animals and communication is a very important part of our daily life. Every interaction we have with another person including, face to face, over the phone, chatting online or even texting is communication happening, and having strong communication skills will benefit every type of interaction we encounter.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Listening and Hearing in Teams

Hearing is the act of perceiving sound by the ear. Assuming an individual is not hearing-impaired, hearing simply happens. Listening, however, is something that one consciously chooses to do. Listening requires concentration so that the brain processes meaning from words and sentences.

Listening leads to learning, but this is not always an easy task. The normal adult rate of speech is 100-150 words per minute, but the brain can think at a rate of 400-500 words per minute, leaving extra time for daydreaming, or anticipating the speaker’s or the recipient’s next words.

As opposed to hearing, listening skills can be learned and refined. The art of active listening allows you to fully receive a message from another team member. Especially in a situation involving anger or a tense interchange, active listening allows you to be sensitive to the multiple dimensions of communication that make up an entire message. These dimensions include:

The occasion for the message: What is the reason why the team member is communicating with me now?

The length of the message: What can the length of the message tell me about its importance?

The words chosen: Is the message being made formally? Is it with aloofness or slang?

The volume and pace: What clues do the loudness and speed give me?

The Pauses and Hesitations: How do these enhance or detract from the message?

Non-verbal clues: What does eye contact, posture, or facial expressions tell me about the message?

Empathy is the capability to share and understand another’s emotions and feelings. Empathetic listening is the art of seeking a truer understanding of how other team members are feeling. This requires excellent discrimination and close attention to the nuances of emotional signals. According to Stephen Covey in “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, empathetic listening involves five basic tasks:

  1. Repeat verbatim the content of the communication; the words, not the feelings
  2. Rephrase content; summarize the meaning of the words in your own words
  3. Reflect feelings; look more deeply and begin to capture feelings in your own words. Look beyond words for body language and tone to indicate feelings.
  4. Rephrase contents and reflect feelings; express both their words and feelings in your own words.
  5. Discern when empathy is not necessary – or appropriate.

Asking Questions in Teams

Active listeners use specific questioning techniques to elicit more information from speakers. Below are three types of questions to use when practicing active listening in your team.

Open Questions

Open questions stimulate thinking and discussion or responses, including opinions or feelings. They pass control of the conversation to the respondent. Leading words in open questions include: Why, what, or how, as in the following examples:

  • Tell me about the current employee orientation process.
  • How do you open the emergency exit door on an A320 aircraft?

Clarifying Questions

A clarifying question helps to remove ambiguity, elicits additional detail, and guides the answer to a question. When you ask a clarifying question, you ask for expansion or detail, while withholding your judgment and own opinions. When asking for clarification, you will have to listen carefully to what the other person says. Frame your question as someone trying to understand in more detail. Often asking for a specific example is useful. This also helps the speaker evaluate his or her own opinions and perspective. Below are some examples:

  • I can tell you are really concerned about this. Let me see if I can repeat to you your main concerns so we can start to think about what to do in this situation.
  • What sort of savings are you looking to achieve?

Closed Questions

Closed questions usually require a one-word answer, and effectively shut off discussion. Closed questions provide facts, allow the questioner to maintain control of the conversation, and are easy to answer. Typical leading words are: Is, can, how many, or does. While closed questions are not the optimum choice for active listening, at times they may be necessary to elicit facts. Below are several examples of closed questions:

  • Who will lead the meeting?
  • Do you know how to open the emergency exit door on this aircraft?

Body Language

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication involving the use of stylized gestures, postures, and physiologic signs which act as cues to other people. Humans unconsciously send and receive non-verbal signals through body language all the time.

Non-verbal communication is the process of communication through sending and receiving wordless messages. It is the single most powerful form of communication in a team. Nonverbal communication cues others about what is in your mind, even more than your voice or words can do.

According to studies at UCLA, as much as 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues, and the impact of performance was determined 7 percent by the words used, 38 percent by voice quality, and 55 percent by non-verbal communication.

In communication, if a conflict arises between your words and your body language, your body language rules every time.

 

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The Four Styles of Communication in a Team

The Four Styles of Communication in a Team

Communication does not ‘just happen’, for effective communication to occur in a team there has to be an effective communication strategy in place. Communication does not begin with talking and convincing, but with hearing and understanding. It is also important for your team to understand that when it comes to communication it is essential to understand that people respond to the world as they see it.There are four styles of communication that you may encounter in teams: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

The Passive Team Member

Passive behavior is the avoidance of the expression of opinions or feelings, protecting one’s rights, and identifying and meeting one’s needs. Passive team members exhibit poor eye contact and slumped body posture, and tend to speak softly or apologetically. Passive team members express statements implying that:

  • “I’m unable to stand up for my rights.”
  • “I don’t know what my rights are.”
  • “I get stepped on by everyone.”
  • “I’m weak and unable to take care of myself.”
  • “People never consider my feelings.”

The Aggressive Team Member

An aggressive team member communicates in a way that violates the rights of others. Thus, aggressive communicators are verbally or physically abusive, or both. Aggressive communication is born of low self-esteem, often caused by past physical or emotional abuse, unhealed emotional wounds, and feelings of powerlessness.

Aggressive team members display a low tolerance for frustration, use humiliation, interrupt frequently, and use criticism or blame to attack others. They use piercing eye contact, and are not good listeners. Aggressive team members express statements implying that:

  • The other person is inferior, wrong, and not worth anything
  • The problem is the other person’s fault
  • They are superior and right
  • They will get their way regardless of the consequences
  • They are entitled, and that the other person “owes” them.

The Passive-Aggressive Team Member

The passive-aggressive team members use a communication style in which the individual appears passive on the surface, but is really acting out anger in a subtle, indirect, or behind-the-scenes way.

Passive-aggressive team members usually feel powerless, stuck, and resentful. Alienated from others, they feel incapable of dealing directly with the object of their resentments. Rather, they express their anger by subtly undermining the real or imagined object of their resentments. Frequently they mutter to themselves instead of confronting another person. They often smile at you, even though they are angry, use subtle sabotage, or speak with sarcasm.

Passive-aggressive team members use communication that implies:

  • “I’m weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate, and disrupt.”
  • “I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must use guerilla warfare.”
  • “I will appear cooperative, but I’m not.”

The Assertive Team Member

An assertive team member communicates in a way that clearly states his or her opinions and feelings, and firmly advocates for his or her rights and needs without violating the rights of others. Assertive communication is born of high self-esteem. Assertive people value themselves, their time, and their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs. They are strong advocates for themselves — while being very respectful of the rights of others.

Assertive team members feel connected to the team. They make statements of needs and feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully. Feeling in control of themselves, they speak in calm and clear tones, are good listeners, and maintain good eye contact. They create a respectful environment for others, and do not allow others to abuse or manipulate them.

The assertive person uses statements that imply:

  • “I am confident about who I am.”
  • “I cannot control others, but I control myself.”
  • “I speak clearly, honestly, and to the point.”
  • “I know I have choices in my life, and I consider my options. I am fully responsible for my own happiness.”
  • “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.”

 

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How to Connect With Your Team Through Interpersonal Communication

Sadly, talking and listening has often been seen as a tool for simply communicating with other people, but not for building connections and networks. This assumption doesn’t recognize the fact that interpersonal communication is a great tool to connect with your team members on a deeper level and form a connection with them. Speaking interpersonally allows both parties to feel more at ease and open up to one another. Just remember to be an active listener and watch your own body language.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Give Respect and Trust

It is a common courtesy in any conversation to treat the other person respectfully and professionally. By treating their ideas and opinions respectfully and with due consideration, you are showing respect by hearing them out, listening to them, and considering what they have to say with an open mind. When communicating with your team, it is important to build rapport and trust by speaking with each other respectfully and giving each other your full attention. After all, they deserved to be treated with dignity and courtesy for their thoughts and opinions. In addition, give your trust to them and let them know that you feel confident enough to speak with them openly. The motions and feelings we put out into the world will come back to us, so don’t be afraid to speak openly with your team. They will be impressed that you can give respect and trust so freely and appreciate the effort you are trying to make with them.

Related: Trust Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Be Consistent

Consistency is a key factor that builds interpersonal relationships. Being consistent in what we say and do shows knowledge and reliability because it helps build a familiar base to start from. Your team members will want to communicate with you because you will become a factor they know they can trust and depend on. In addition, ensure that your actions are consistent with what you say – in other words– do what you say you’ll do. If you say you will meet someone after lunch to review a report, ensure that you are there early to greet them. If you volunteered to give a speech at the next work convention, be prepared ahead of time and be ready when the day arrives. Showing you are consistent in turn shows how reliable you are and what an asset you can be for the team. Take a few minutes to reflect back on your actions and note if they have been consistent over time. Are there behaviors you can change? What can you do differently in the future?

Always Keep Your Cool

Keeping our cool in tight or stressful situations can be tough and takes a lot of skill to make it through gracefully. It is perfectly normal to feel embarrassed or hurt when someone does something you don’t like, such as speaking rudely to you or pointing out a mistake you made. Our first instinct is to possibly lash out at them or try to retaliate by hurting them in return. But the key to strong and professional communication is to keep your cool at all times and not let the negative feelings take over. When something happens that may send you over the edge, take a minute to reflect on what was said and what happened. If needed, you should step away for a few moments to compose yourself. Don’t deny the other team member to their opinion, but let them know how you feel and how it affects you. Kinder team members will back track their statements and try to address the problem in less negative terms. If the team member is unwilling to give respect, realize that their opinion may not be worth the fight.

Tips for keeping your cool:

  • Try not to take words personally
  • Stop and reflect what was said, not how it was said
  • Make a note to learn from this experience
  • Ask yourself if the person had reason for what was said – if so, what can you do to change it?

Observing Body Language

Body language can speak volumes between people, even if it does not have words to accompany it. Many times people may say one message, but their body language can say another, meaning they may not be truthful in what they say. By observing and becoming more aware of body language and what it might mean, we can learn to read people more easily and understand some of their body movements. By better understanding their movements, you can be better prepared to communicate with them, while at the same time better understanding the body language you may be conveying to them. Even though there are times that we can send mixed messages, we can try to get our point across using certain behaviors. Our body language affects how we act with others and how we react to them, as well as how they can react to ours.

 

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Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Improve Communication With Your Team By Asking Good Questions

Good questioning skills are essential to successful communication with your team. In this blog, we will look closer at questioning techniques that you can use throughout the communication process.

Open Questions

Open questions get their name because the response is open-ended; the answerer has a wide range of options to choose from when answering it.

Open questions use one of six words as a root:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

Open questions are like going fishing with a net – you never know what you’re going to get! Open questions are great conversation starters, fact finders, and communication enhancers. Use them whenever possible when communicating with your team.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Closed Questions

Closed questions are the opposite of open questions; their very structure limits the answer to yes or no, or a specific piece of information. Some examples include:

  • Do you like chocolate?
  • Were you born in December?
  • Is it five o’clock yet?

Although closed questions tend to shut down communication, they can be useful if you are searching for a particular piece of information from your team, or winding a conversation down.

If you use a closed question and it shuts down the conversation, simply use an open-ended question to get things started again. Here is an example:

  • Do you like the Flaming Ducks hockey team?
  • Who is your favorite player?

Probing Questions

In addition to the basic open and closed questions, there is also a toolbox of probing questions that you can use. These questions can be open or closed, but each type serves a specific purpose.

Clarification

By probing for clarification, you invite the other person to share more information so that you can fully understand their message. Clarification questions often look like this:

  • “Please tell me more about…”
  • “What did you mean by…”
  • “What does… look like?” (Any of the five senses can be used here)

Completeness and Correctness

These types of questions can help you ensure you have the full, true story. Having all the facts, in turn, can protect you from assuming and jumping to conclusions – two fatal barriers to communication.

Some examples of these questions include:

  • “What else happened after that?”
  • “Did that end the…”

Determining Relevance

This category will help you determine how or if a particular point is related to the conversation at hand. It can also help you get the team member back on track from a tangent.

Some good ways to frame relevance questions are:

  • “How is that like…”
  • “How does that relate to…”

Drilling Down

Use these types of questions to nail down vague statements. Useful helpers include:

  • “Describe…”
  • “What do you mean by…?”
  • “Could you please give an example?”

Summarizing

These questions are framed more like a statement. They pull together all the relevant points. They can be used to confirm to the team member that you heard what was said, and to give them an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.

Example: “So you picked out a dress, had to get it fitted three times, and missed the wedding in the end?”

Be careful not to avoid repeating the team member’s words back to them like a parrot. Remember, paraphrasing means repeating what you think the team member said in your own words.

 

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Speaking Like a STAR to Your Team

Speak Like a STAR

You can ensure that the message you are communicating to your team is clear, complete, correct, and concise, with the STAR acronym. This article will explore the STAR acronym in conjunction with the six roots of open questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?).

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

S = Situation

First, state what the situation is. Try to make this no longer than one sentence. If you are having trouble, ask yourself, “Where?”, “Who?”, and, “When?”. This will provide a base for the message so it can be clear and concise.

Example: “On Tuesday, I was in a director’s meeting at the main plant.”

T = Task

Next, briefly state what your task was. Again, this should be no longer than one sentence. Use the question, “What?” to frame your sentence, and add the “Why?” if appropriate.

Example: “I was asked to present last year’s sales figures to the group.”

A = Action

Now, state what you did to resolve the problem in one sentence. Use the question, “How?” to frame this part of the statement. The Action part will provide a solid description and state the precise actions that will resolve any issues.

Example: “I pulled out my laptop, fired up PowerPoint, and presented my slide show.”

R = Result

Last, state what the result was. This will often use a combination of the six roots. Again, a precise short description of the results that come about from your previous steps will finish on a strong definite note.

Example: “Everyone was wowed by my prep work, and by our great figures!”

Summary

Let’s look at a complete example using STAR. Let’s say you’re out with friends on the weekend. Someone asks you what the highlight of your week at work was. As it happens, you had a great week, and there is a lot to talk about. You use STAR to focus your answer so you don’t bore your friends, and so that you send a clear message.

You respond: “On Tuesday, I was in a director’s meeting at the main plant. I was asked to present last year’s sales figures to the group. I pulled out my laptop, fired up PowerPoint, and presented my slide show. Everyone was wowed by my prep work, and by our great figures!”

This format can be compressed for quick conversations, or expanded for lengthy presentations. We encourage you to try framing statements with STAR, and see how much more confident you feel when communicating.

 

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What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

What Your Body Language is Communicating to Your Team

When you are communicating something to your team, your body is sending a message that is as powerful as your words. When talking about body language, remember that our interpretations are just that – common interpretations. For example, the person sitting with his or her legs crossed may simply be more comfortable that way, and not feeling closed-minded towards the discussion. Body language can also mean different things across different genders and cultures. However, it is good to understand how various behaviors are often seen, so that we can make sure our body is sending the same message as our mouth.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Think about these scenarios for a moment. What non-verbal messages might you receive in each scenario? How might these non-verbal messages affect the verbal message?

  • Your boss asks you to come into his office to discuss a new project. He looks stern and his arms are crossed.
  • A team member tells you they have bad news, but they are smiling as they say it.
  • You tell a co-worker that you cannot help them with a project. They say that it’s OK, but they slam your office door on their way out.

In this article we will show you how to use body language to become a more effective communicator. It is also important that as a team leader you learn to interpret body language, add it to the message you are receiving, and understand the message being sent appropriately.

All About Body Language

Body language is a very broad term that simply means the way in which our body speaks to others. We have included an overview of three major categories below.

The way that we are standing or sitting

Think for a moment about different types of posture and the message that they relay.

  • Sitting hunched over typically indicates stress or discomfort.
  • Leaning back when standing or sitting indicates a casual and relaxed demeanor.
  • Standing ramrod straight typically indicates stiffness and anxiety.

The position of our arms, legs, feet, and hands

  • Crossed arms and legs often indicate a closed mind.
  • Fidgeting is usually a sign of boredom or nervousness.

Facial expressions

  • Smiles and frowns speak a million words.
  • A raised eyebrow can mean inquisitiveness, curiosity, or disbelief.

Chewing one’s lips can indicate thinking, or it can be a sign of boredom, anxiety, or nervousness.

Interpreting Gestures

A gesture is a non-verbal message that is made with a specific part of the body. Gestures differ greatly from region to region, and from culture to culture. Below we have included a brief list of gestures and their common interpretation.

Gesture Interpretation
Nodding head Yes
Shaking head No
Moving head from side to side Maybe
Shrugging shoulders Not sure; I don’t know
Crossed arms Defensive
Tapping hands or fingers Bored, anxious, nervous
Shaking index finger Angry
Thumbs up Agreement, OK
Thumbs down Disagreement, not OK
Pointing index finger at someone/something Indicating, blaming
Handshake Welcome, introduction
Flap of the hand Doesn’t matter, go ahead
Waving hand Hello
Waving both hands over head Help, attention
Crossed legs or ankles Defensive
Tapping toes or feet Bored, anxious, nervous

 

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Paraverbal Communication Skills for Team Leaders

Paraverbal Communication Skills for Team Leaders

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter Drucker

How you say something to your team is just as important as what you are saying. How you say something is known as paraverbal communication and include the pitch, tone, and speed of your words when you communicate.

Related: Leadership Outcome Based Team Building Activities

The Power of Pitch

Pitch can be most simply defined as the key of your voice. A high pitch is often interpreted as anxious or upset. A low pitch sounds more serious and authoritative. Your team will pick up on the pitch of your voice and react to it. Variation in the pitch of your voice is also important to keep your team members interested. If you naturally speak in a very high-pitched or low-pitched voice, work on varying your pitch to encompass all ranges of your vocal cords.

The Truth about Tone

Did your mother ever say to you, “I don’t like that tone!” She was referring to the combination of various pitches to create a mood.

Here are some tips on creating a positive, authoritative tone when communicating with your team.

  • Try lowering the pitch of your voice a bit.
  • Smile! This will warm up anyone’s voice.
  • Sit up straight and listen.
  • Monitor your inner monologue. Negative thinking will seep into the tone of your voice.

Related: Communication Outcome Based Team Building Activities

The Strength of Speed

The pace at which you speak also has a tremendous effect on your communication ability. From a practical perspective, a team leader who speaks quickly is harder to understand than one who speaks at a moderate pace. Conversely, a team leader who speaks very slowly will probably lose their audience’s interest before they get very far!

Speed also has an effect on the tone and emotional quality of your message. A hurried pace can make your team feel anxious and rushed. A slow pace can make your team feel as though your message is not important. A moderate pace will seem natural, and will help the team focus on your message.

One easy way to check your pitch, tone, and speed is to record yourself speaking. Think of how you would feel listening to your own voice. Work on speaking the way you would like to be spoken to.

 

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